Gardening update

I love Sundays, especially early in the morning, when no one is really awake. They’re so peaceful and simple.

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Noli and I went out this morning to check on the garden and make sure everything was going well, here’s an update on everything we are growing!

Basil: I wasn’t thinking and didn’t harden it off. Dummy. Soooo, it’s growing still, but it’s looking a little rough. But I think it’ll be fine. I might pick up a few plants just to be on the safe side. You can never have too much basil!

Beets: Attacked by the Spanish Leaf Miners. *insert crazy gardening lady with clippers and a spray bottle filled with soapy water*. Good news, although the leaves might look a little rough, the roots themselves are good and growing strong!

Cantaloupe: Still no sign..I didn’t keep track of when I planted it, although it was the same time as corn. (2 weeks ago?) I’ll give it a few more days and replant it.

Carrots: Carrots, you never fail me. You are delicious. I love you. (They are growing amazingly well, of course).

Celery: I’m not sure how this is going. It’s growing. It’s small..there’s no guarantees it’ll make it. I’m not placing any bets.

Cilantro: Harvested 3 HUGE bunches of this. We cut back the plants to the base and are waiting for more to sprout before it gets to hot and bolts.

Corn: It has started to pop up! Thank goodness! I felt like that took forever! Something about growing corn makes me feel like a real farmer.

Garlic: Everything is looking good so far. This is definitely one of the harvests I’m looking forward to most. Unfortunately we had to harvest one a little early (someone, or some furry black dog named Charlie, stepped on it).

Green Beans: I started these outdoors last-minute, in a spot that wasn’t even intended for anything. But they are growing great and I’ll be glad I planted them.

Horseradish: My one regret, NEVER GROW HORSERADISH IN ANYTHING BUT A CONTAINER. They will take over and conquer. The good news is, horseradish is delicious.

Hubbard squash: This beautiful plant has popped up and is looking strong and handsome. Has anyone else grown it? If you like pumpkin pie, grow this. Pumpkin doesn’t hold a candle to Hubbard.

Kale: Kale is doing beautifully, already harvested 3 HUGE bunches.

Potatoes: Wowee. These guys. They sure know how to grow. Handsome little taters.

Snow Peas: Growing STRONG, but….it’s getting hot. Like really hot. So I don’t think they’re going to be very tasty. But we’ll see!

Spinach: Damn Spanish Leaf Miners.. but overall it’s been a good harvest so far. Probably about 2 big bunches/or 3 salad bowls full (I’m going to get a better system down this week).

Strawberries: I’m so glad we have strawberries. If you don’t have berries in your garden, you need to get some. Your gardening life will never be the same. I think next year I’m going to double and/or triple our strawberry plants.

Tomatoes: This year I started my tomatoes indoors, and although they did great in the beginning, they became spindly from lack of strong light (we were using shop lights). Next year I’ll definitely build a mini green house, just for the tomatoes and peppers. I think they will do fine since we re-planted some of them sideways to give them more roots. A few we left as is to see if it made any difference. (8 in total). AND they are flowering which is a good sign!

Zucchini: I bought an heirloom plant of this about a week or so ago. I didn’t think I wanted zucchini this year, but when I went to the store and had to pay .69 cents for ONE zucchini squas. I about died, and immediately put a plant in the ground.

Things I wish I had room for: Cucumbers, broccoli and raspberries. And about a billion other plants. But these were the top 3.

Is anyone keeping track of their harvest this year? I decided to see how much money I’m saving this growing season and I’m keeping track of the number and weight of my produce! So far I’ve harvested: 1 lb of organic spinach ($4.12 per lb), 10 oz of organic garlic scapes ($7 per 1/2 lb), 1 lb 8 oz of organic cilantro ($1.46 a bunch), 3 lb of organic kale ($1.97 a bunch), 1 German Red organic garlic head ($3.50 ea), and 3 organic strawberries!
Estimate savings price for May: Est. $27.91
Total savings to date: Est. $27.91

So far so good.

And…I’ll end with a few pictures!

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Hey tomato flowers, lookin’ goood!

 

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My daughter already ate all the partially ripe berries. She knows what’s up.

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Bouquet of cilantro.

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Potatoes aren’t wasting anytime!

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Had to harvest this guy early, got trampled. Not sad one bit!

Beets

 

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So I just planted my beets the other day, and in celebration I bought some from our local grocery store. I cooked them for about an hour in the oven and then chopped them up with some pears and nuts and put them in some mixed greens. It was a day to remember.

This is my first year growing beets and I decided to grow the Early Wonder variety. It’s a old heirloom variety dating back to pre-1811. Must be good if they’ve been haulin’ them around this long 😉

Here are some  facts about our little mediterranean native:

  • They are packed full of: potassium, folic acid, manganese, fiber, vitamin a, c, calcium, and iron
  • They are biennial- meaning they flower and set seed their second season
  • VERY cold hardy.
  • Sow directly into the ground, but soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before placing in the soil. Helps with germination. (Which I didn’t do…shoot)
  • Each seed is actually a cluster of 2-6 seeds
  • Plants that reach maturity during hot weather will have less color and flavor. Dress your plants with compost and plant in the shade of another plant to secure your chances of a good harvest

Growing beets:

  • First off, pick a nice sunny location that has well drained soil
  • Amend your soil with organic material working it in to a depth of 8-10 inches
  • Sow seeds 2-4 inches apart, water well and add a thin layer of dressing. This helps to moderate soil moisture and temperature. *Keep beets watered well and you will have happy gardeners and happy beets*
  • Beets require lots of phosphorus to grow healthy large roots. If you run a soil test and you find in lacks in phosphorus give your plants a side dressing of bonemeal or rock phosphate. (Favored pH range for beets is 6.0-7.0)
  • Stop sowing seeds once the temperatures reach about 75 degrees, but start again 8 or so weeks before the first fall frost, for a late season harvest

Harvesting beets:

  • Beets taste best when they are 1.5-2.5 inches in diameter. After that they start to lose flavor and the texture becomes unappetizing
  • Beet greens can be harvested as soon as plants are an inch or two high. Older greens are best when steamed or sauteed.
  • When beets are ready to harvest, pull or dig them out then remove the tops by twisting them or cutting them off, being careful to leave a few inches of stem on the root to keep them from bleeding and losing their moisture. They can be stored this way, in the fridge for up to a week
  • For long term storage, layer the beets in damp sawdust or sand and keep in a moist cold root storage until ready to use

 

  • Beet seeds

 

 

Spring!

Whew. It’s been awhile. Sorry about that guys.

This year has been a tough year getting things going, I have a million things going on! It’s also an especially warm winter here in Utah so it’s been throwing my growing groove off.
Do people still say groove? groove.

Anywho… Anywho?

ANYWAYS.

I’ve had some up and downs. I tried soil blocking under the pretense that there was a good chance I would fail the first year. And I did. I got the blocks to form beautifully, and I even followed a recipe. I hate following recipes. But, I did anyways, and after the first few days in their little hut they started to smell STRONGLY of ammonia. Not a little ammonia. But like someone pee’d on it and stuck a plastic cover over it for a few weeks. I’ve read a few reviews on how you are supposed to let your soil blocking mix sit for a month to break down before you use it, so I’m going to try that and test it out. In the mean time, I’ve already gotten my seeds going in a pre-made seed starting potting mix, and they are chugging along quite nice.

Chugging…why do I keep saying weird things?

My tomatoes have formed true leaves and I’ve transplanted a few of the extra sprouts into their own container. Which, holy smokes, I thought I had lost them. With in 10 min they were flat on their backs and weaker than a candle in the wind. But with in a few hours they were back to their upright positions. Tip I learned: DO NOT GRAB BY THE STEM, only by the leaves. The stem is very sensitive and can be easily shocked.

Right after transplanting:

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

Shocked tomatoes, poor guys.

A few hours after transplanting:

Bouncing right on back!

Bouncing right on back!

And here they are now, a few weeks later. Lookin’ good ladies! (And gents..) I’ve also been giving them a few tablespoons of fish fertilizer once a week, and it’s been a great thing! Especially for the tomatoes that had some shock.

German PInk

German Pink

Bonny Best

Bonny Best

 

Sorry for the blinding light, but here are a few other things I’m growing so far: kale, oregano, chives, cilantro, broccoli, celery, parsley, basil, lavender and peppers. I definitely started the kale and broccoli a couple of weeks to early. So I’m going to try and transplant them outside and put covers over them till it’s a bit warmer out.

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I spent all yesterday working on our strawberry patch, removing the old mulch, weeding, and removing some of the strawberry plants that died. There are a few things that I’m going to do differently this year/next year. 1) Transplant some of the runners after the last harvest, that way that are in their semi-dormant phase. Yesterday, I removed some of the plants that were to close to each other and tried to replant them. I think they will be fine, but it took a tole on them. 2) Their roots are sensitive to moisture and light, so I’ll be more careful not to lay the bare roots out while I’m working on getting them replanted.  3) This year I want to fertilize them more. My strawberries did great last year, but I think they will really benefit from the fertilizer.  Tip: 1 lb of balanced fertilizer per 100 sq feet. With that water an inch per week throughout the growing season.

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Over the next 2 days I’ll be planting my lettuces, spinach, carrots, peas and potatoes! I’m a couple weeks behind on the peas, so we’ll see how well they do. Also, I’m growing potatoes for the first time this year. What is your preferred growing method? I’m short on space, so I was thinking about building some wire potato cages out of thick wire fencing. If you have a method that works, please share!

Overall, I think this is going to be a great growing season and I can’t wait to see what everyone else is doing and growing!

And to end, here’s a cute picture of my daughter 🙂

 

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Gardening Trays

Every year in my garden I weed, I pick, I pull, I trim and I harvest. I end up with handfulls, armloads, bucketloads of plants and produce. How do I move it? I use my hands, I use my shirt, I use bowls from the kitchen, I use the baskets that normally hold the throw blankets in the living room. Really anything that could hold something.

None of these things were really working well for me. I’d leave my kitchen bowls outside for a few days, my good shirt would now become another…gardening shirt. (Why do I always forget to put on the ratty shirts when gardening?!) My hands could never hold enough, and a few delicate tomatoes would go tumbling down the steps, and my basket used for blankets would eventually be covered in dirt and leaves because I would forget to clean it out before returning it to it’s rightful place. But the gardening stores around here never really had anything I liked. They had totes and cute baskets for holding fancy tea towels in..but nothing I wanted to fork out 30+ dollars for that was practical.

We’ve been tossing around a few ideas for gardening trays that would be useful in the garden. You could rinse your produce in them, shake off dirt, use them to hold your weeds or carry gardening pots outside with them (and whatever else you could imagine using them for.) Here’s our first draft.

Sketching out the ideas

Sketching out different ideas and measurements

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Picking out different woods. Poplar and Oak.

Beautiful oak

Beautiful oak

Sawing sawing sawing

Sawing sawing sawing

Oak box and a poplar box

Oak box and a Poplar box

So there they are! This is definitely the rough draft, things weren’t quite even in some places, and we are still working with what type of screws/nails to use on the boxes, especially the Oak boxes. I like the idea of using Poplar, they are easy to put together and affordable. We will definitely need to put a linseed finish on both of them (or something similar.) The Oak boxes are very sturdy and they just feel good in your hands. They are a bit heavier than the Poplar, but will withstand weather and use for a very long time. They aren’t as affordable as the Poplar, but I think they will be worth their weight in gold once finished. Also, I think we’ll do a couple different varieties and sizes. Make the Oak one with a mesh bottom and the Poplar one with wooden slats, maybe do a few smaller varieties for those that mostly have berries and herbs. Let me know what you all think! 

Seed Starting

It’s February!

Doesn’t it feels like the end of winter? It’s still cold, it still snows, but you can see the flowers, and the tree buds in the distance. The birds have started chirping more and the days just don’t seem as gloomy. And just because it’s 45 days until spring doesn’t mean you will be waiting until then to start planting!

Before you get started on all your glorious gardening plans, check to see what gardening zone you are in. The zone you are in will highly affect when you plant all your vegetables and fruit. For instance, if you lived in zones 7-8 you can start planting your gardening pea’s in January, whereas if you lived in Zones 5-6 you can’t start planting them until March! Planting zones really do matter! No one wants to have frost bitten peas, I can tell you that!

So for all you folks that live in Zones 5-6, seed starting is coming up! Here is a few tips for starting your seeds indoors.

1- GOOD Potting soil. I really like this company because it’s organic and has no artificial polyacrylamide.

Ecoscraps

2-Seedling containers. You can use anything from clay pots, plastic containers divided into cells, rolled newspaper, paper cups or even egg cartons. Although, I wouldn’t really recommend the egg shell/carton one, the cells are usually too small for most seed germination and long term growth. I think this year I want to try out the rolled newspaper method, it’s free and they compost well. But with any of these methods just make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom, or a way for excess water to escape.

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3-Light and warmth. There are a couple different ways you can successfully do this. You can use the window sill on a sunny side of the house, although you want to make sure the windows aren’t too drafty. If you are starting your seeds in late winter/early spring, make sure that they get enough strong sunlight. You can put them outside in a green house. Or, what we do, you can get one of those plastic or metal shelving stands and tie shop lights under each shelf with wire, and even have heating pads under them (No need to buy the specialty heating pads, just a normal one that has low settings). This specific method works beautifully for us.

4-Growth. Once your seedlings have sprouted make sure they get between 12-14 hours of light a day, keeping the light as close to the sprouts as possible, with out actually touching the leaves. Make sure you take off any sort of dome or plastic covering so the plants get enough air and don’t succumb to fungi. During this growth period trim off any additional seedling sprouts that appear in each sell or pot with a small pare of scissors. Pulling on the excess sprouts can traumatize the root system and weaken your main plant.

5-Transplant. If you started out using small cells or eggshells for your germination process, you’ll need to transplant them into bigger pots once they start to outgrow their environment. Simply peal the outside of the paper off if using newspaper, lift with a utensil or turn to its side if using plastic, or break off the shells if using eggs. Be very careful and gentle during this process, you don’t want to traumatize the plant and send it into shock.

6-Feedings. After about 3-4 weeks, the nutrients in the potting mix will be gone, so you will need to supplement the seedlings to make sure they get all the nutrients they need. Up until this year I have yet to use any type of liquid fertilizer, and always got decent results. But I’ve realized that certain plants never did that well from seeds, especially tomatoes and peppers, and it’s because I didn’t supplement the soil. All gardening stores will offer liquid fertilizers, but if you aren’t into spending the extra money there are ways to make your own: Homemade liquid fertilizer. Just remember, if using liquid fertilizers, double the dilution to water ratio. Seedlings are small and don’t need as much nutrients as full grown plants.

7-Patience. This is sometimes the hardest part. Waiting. But growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding experiences. Take care of these little seeds and plants in every stage of growth and you will be rewarded with beautiful juicy produce all summer long.